Friday, May 5, 2017

coming together: bits 'n pieces

Happy Friday y'all! Today's post is kind of a mishmash of two stories - one told in pictures (mostly) and another told in words. Bear with me lol.

The first is about Charlie's continued progress and development on the flat - told in the main narrative text below. The other is about shopping and attire and matchy matchy outfits. For this, we have photos and captions. So like, I guess choose your own adventure with whatever of those two you want to actually read lol.

Operation: Berry Dressage Outfit is nearly complete! obviously upon deciding to go this route, I had to put in a call to Amelia at Dark Jewel Designs. At $15 for a new fully custom bead strand for my browbands, it was a no-brainer! 
So. Charlie's flat work. My plan for this week was to ride him again in that Myler bit (that we experimented with back in March) for one ride then switch back to the snaffle for the rest of our rides leading up to this weekend's Fair Hill HT.

That ride in the Myler was on Wednesday, and it was quite interesting in how it differed from his first time wearing the bit. This go round, there was little to no noticeable difference in his stress or tension levels. He was aware of the bit and uncertain about it - but at no point did I feel like he was actually upset or brewing an explosion.

I told her that my vision was "glittery black with a hint of berry" and sent a couple color-representative pictures of the bonnet irl, and screen shots of the Horseware of Ireland Competition Jacket from retailer sites, as it had not yet arrived. She took care of the rest re: selecting potential beads and putting together various patterns. We had quite a bit of back and forth here - especially bc each pattern was better than the last lol. But once we had a pattern selected, then it was a matter of testing out different size and shape beads for that pattern before landing on what you see above. 
In fact - completely unlike the first ride, I was able to fully close my leg and push Charlie up to the bridle. And I was able to fairly freely move his head and neck around. Not perfectly, not without some issues with crookedness or whatever - but like, small steps y'all. And sure, he was still a little behind my leg. But mostly I was just happy that he was decidedly more rideable this time.

Charlie still put very little weight into the bridle - he wasn't necessarily filling up the contact and actually stayed slightly ducked behind the bridle with his neck broken at the wrong vertebrae. So it was very much a false head set. The value to this, at least imo, was in showing him that, "Hey bro, your neck can actually bend. And like, you can put your head down. Crazy, I know, right?"

And the browband is perfect. I'm thrilled with it - plus it perfectly fits the browband Amelia sized for Charlie way back last October. Yassss! So naturally I had to try it on for a "dress rehearsal" complete with the bonnet in Charlie's dressage tack. The overall impression is.... well. There's a LOT going on with this look haha. The long bonnet almost gives the appearance of "horse armor" haha, as Austen said.
Bc let's be real - Charlie's literally never been asked to adjust his head and neck carriage like that before. But he's going to have to learn how to realign each and every single one of his body parts as he learns to shift his balance and carry his whole body differently.

It was also interesting to see that there wasn't as much of a difference in the quality of Charlie's work in the Myler this time around. Last time he wore it, we felt like we had some breakthroughs in his canter transitions and some other small details. This time? No real difference shown, and I think that actually speaks more to the consistent quality of Charlie's regular work. He's just plain old getting better, so the bit didn't create much difference there.

Honestly tho? I think I dig it. I'm not fully 100% committed to the bonnet yet, but the browband fits my vision perfectly. I guess we'll just have to see what it looks like when we're actually dressed for the competition too, complete with matching jacket lol.
The only real weak spot made apparent by how Charlie went in the bit is that downward transitions are still really difficult for him. He simply *could not* transition from trot to walk or walk to halt without popping his head up and bracing against my hands. Even bracing against the dreaded bit haha - the most contact he took the whole ride.

Methinks this is simply a strength issue (compounded by force of habit). But it had maybe always been masked by the fact that Charlie often braces against the bit for everything else too lol. So by putting him in a bit that he was very resistant to taking true contact with, I was able to identify this moment where he really can't help himself yet. So we'll work on it.

We might just end up looking like a sugary slice o' raspberry pie haha. And ya know what? I might be ok with that lol.
Anyway tho, let's get on to the good stuff - bc I promise it's not actually all about putting my horse in a non-legal bit and oohing and ahh-ing over the false head set it created, haha.

The good stuff was what happened next ride, after switching back to our tried-n-true Sprenger KK snaffle. Guys. Charlie learned two big things in this next ride:

1 - He honest to god learned how to go on the bit. And like, more than just fleeting moments of balance - actual strides at a time. (tho of course, still with bobbles bc he ain't that strong yet).

2 - He figured out that's where I want him to be, and that it's a soft, safe, and maybe even comfortable place.

It only took 7 months lol.... but my event-horse-in-training is actually putting the pieces together for real contact in the bridle. So exciting!!!!

And I definitely really like this color on Charlie - maybe more than the french blue of my other show coat (tho I'm not fully ready to part ways with that one either haha). So we'll see. The look is materializing one way or another! What do you think, are you a fan of the long bonnet? or the glittery brow band? Or is this whole color scheme not to your taste? 
And he's actually not at all heavy in the contact either. Like, he'll take more weight in the reins in the KK than he did with the Myler, but that seems pretty natural and actually preferable.

He experimented a little bit with going too low, or with tilting his head. So obviously we have a lot of work in refining and helping him get better and more secure in the connection. But there were some very real moments of bending him with the inside leg and "catching" (sorta) with the outside rein.

The bend is actually maybe kinda the most critical piece right now bc it's like when he connects to the bridle he sorta suddenly gets somewhat rigidly straight and loses power steering a little bit - but it just feels like green stuff, like strength stuff.

Tho also to top off our sugary-shiny look, here's a quick update on Charlie's body condition via two headless horse shots lol. Homeboy is SLICK and GLOSSY and SHINY. And his mane, tail, and coat are all in downright fabulous shape - as evidenced by that majestic-as-fuck tail flick on the left lol (and here we thought we left the land of majestic tails behind with Izzy!). I'm 100% crediting the cocosoya oil with Charlie's shine. And the spring grass gets credit for starting to fill in some of those ribs and add a little more roundness to the hind end. It's a slow process but it's happening!
Honestly I really wish I had video so I could see exactly what it looks like, and see what I'm doing while I ride it. Bc we can basically guarantee that it probably doesn't look as good as it feels, and I'm likely doing some weird contortions with my position. Bc isn't that always the way??....

Still tho, even just getting that feeling from his is a start (even if I'm already pretty skeptical at being able to replicate it consistently - let alone in the show ring yet!). It's really exciting to me, especially since Isabel was the first horse I truly rode dressage on, and learning to develop that contact and connection has always felt very elusive. It's happening tho!

Ahh dressage, such a cruel mistress tho, right? Like isn't that how it always works? Somehow the stars align such that we get a brief fleeting sensation of "This Must Be It!" - just enough to get us hooked in to wanting more lol. Always more. And better.

43 comments:

  1. So for the two stories: I LOVE the browband. It's perfect for him. And I love the berry colour of the bonnet. I'm not sold on the length of it to be honest. If you had it in a shorter one I would see it as perfect. But do you like it? 'Cause that's what matters.

    Charlie is looking good. Carmen also braces going from trot-walk/ walk-halt and it's natural for them to put their heads up. But that means that they are dropping their backs and and not engaging their core. For Carmen I keep the outside rein (my new mantra) and gently sponge the inside to say 'stay with me'. I try my best to not hold as that gives her something to brace against. If/when her head comes up I don't worry about it, I just ask her to bring it down and reward when she does. Not sure if that makes any sense. :)

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    1. Yea the length isn't 100% for me but I'm gonna roll with it and see whether it grows or grates on me, I think. It's just a.... Very different look lol.

      And yea agreed about all that about the downwards transitions. Mostly it was so interesting to me bc in the Myler the transitions stood out in stark relief as a problem area whereas in the snaffle they were masked by all the other "noise" too. So I haven't yet actually worked on them in a very dedicated or purposeful way. But now that I now, I can do something (hopefully lol) about it

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  2. Charlie is so ready for war, er, uh, showing. (Same difference though, right?)

    But really, I am just so damn happy for you. I think this part of training is the hardest and longest, and also the hardest to do correctly. Love the thinking you're getting from Charlie. :)

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    1. I mean, he IS a war horse ;)

      Lol and yea this phase feels hard and long for sure. Bc like, as far as Charlie knows, he's GOING now. Like he's listening and doing what I want, or so he thinks, without really realizing that there is still a very big "next step" ahead of him. But he's a clever boy so I'm hoping that he will catch on quickly once he starts to figure out what I'm asking.

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  3. I love the color and DJD did an amazing job per usual. I'm not totally sold on the long bonnet for him.
    2+ years later I'm still working on getting steady consistent contact. You and Charlie are doing great!

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    1. Man I just LOVE that browband tho. It is so perfect! Each new DJD browband is my new favorite lol

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  4. I love the berry on him!! Can't wait to see the whole outfit together, complete with coat.

    And double yay for training breakthroughs!!!

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    1. Fingers crossed we will get a chance to put it all together this weekend at fair hill! And naturally it would be even better if he could remember to also go on the bit too haha but that might be wishful thinking. ;)

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  5. i really dig the berry on him. its going to be really cool

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  6. LOVE the berry on Charles! The length of the bonnet will take some getting used to, but the color?! Perfect. And I'm so excited you've had this breakthrough moment with him in his understanding of contact - I feel like Charlie in my own dressage riding all the time. I'm all - YES I GOT IT I UNDERSTAND I'M GONNA GO WIN THE OLYMPICS NOW!, and then I find out that there's a "next step" and I get knocked off my pedestal again. Ha. But so so thrilling to see that progress!

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    1. yay thanks! i'm hopeful that the length will feel less weird as i get used to it lol. and yea, poor charlie. he kinda gets annoyed when he thinks he's already doing the thing and why do i keep nagging him for more?? oh sir. bc there's still SO MUCH MORE to do.... he's a good sport tho, hopefully the "aha" moments stick!

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  7. I am madly in love with that berry coat, and the browband is perfect. I'm not 100% on board with the long bonnet, but I don't hate it, either. I need to see the whole package together before I'm sure.

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    1. haha my thoughts exactly!! i'll be sure to take lots of pictures this weekend for the full benefit of group think on the pros/cons of this outfit complete with bonnet lol :)

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  8. That's a massive breakthrough with the contact! It's so awesome when you feel things come together once, it may take time to reproduce it consistently, but at least you know it's there and what to feel for!

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    1. yes exactly!!!!! we're not *there* yet - but now we know it *can* happen. it's a great feeling and reaffirms the work we're doing. now to just keep chipping away!

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  9. I'm obviously nowhere special, but this phase is hard for the war horses like C and Charlie. We're asking them to use muscles they don't know they have and change movement patterns they developed over years of practice and even the most even-tempered, tolerant horse (Charlie, haha) is going to struggle both mentally and physically. So keep at it!

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    1. yep it's definitely all very new and surprising for him, that's for sure! he's a good thinker tho, and a good problem solver. he gets a little upset when he thinks he's being good and doing the thing and i tell him that there's still moar to do lol... but honestly i'm kinda expecting it to "click" for him. it'll be hard bc he's not strong and it's going to challenge his body - but mentally i'm hopeful!

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  10. I love that berry color on him. Subtle but pretty. No way I could pull off a pink coat. I'm excited to see the finished ensemble. charlie has a big enough head to pull off the long bonnet. A smaller head would look dwarfed.

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    1. ha yea omg, the bonnet would definitely be a "no" if his face was any smaller.... it's a tricky length for sure!

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  11. I love that color (obviously I have the same coat), but I don't love that fly bonnet. I think it's just too long. Mattes makes a berry fly bonnet but it's expensive. I was thinking of getting a white cheapie and dying it berry colored.

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    1. oooh Allison from pony'tude dyed an old bonnet with great success, definitely let us know if you do it! i'm not really sold on this length either, but for $15 from ebay it was worth a shot. it's a shame too bc the bonnet itself is actually quite nice. i'm just iffy on the style....

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  12. The browband is beautiful. But not as beautiful as that summer coat - whew it's glossy. I'm just learning about thoroughbred coats and how incredibly soft and shiny they are. He looks wonderful Emma

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    1. thanks - i'm really happy with his current progress, and i love having the softest horse in the barn!!

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  13. I LOVE the browband and I can't wait to see it all put together with your coat!! I'm not sold on the long bonnet yet, I like the color a lot, but the long point is too much for me. It does fit well on his face though.

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    1. thanks, its def a little too long for my tastes too.... but the fit is right so i thnk we'll roll with it for a little while to see if i either get sick of it or start to like it. we'll see!

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  14. I am so glad that the browband worked out so well! It looks fabulous on him! I think that the longer 'tie-down' style bonnets are a European thing, so you may be starting the next big trend here :)

    Charlie looks FABULOUS! You've done such a great job with his diet changes and it really shows. I absolutely love the phase when they start to learn about something new and you can feel them thinking and figuring it out.

    Best of luck this weekend. I may or may not (MAY) be stalking scores :)

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    1. aw thanks :) i'm in LOVE with this browband and really appreciate your work on it! and hey, you might be on to something about these long bonnets being the new "hot" trend. especially the fact that this particular bonnet was offered at such competitive prices for a pretty nice quality item, and in quite a few colors too.... we may see more of them around lol.

      and thanks - we're working so hard on helping charlie to really truly thrive and i'm FINALLY feeling like maybe he's starting to get there. i'll keep you posted on this weekend!

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  15. I had to read both stories seperately, lol!!

    Love the bonnet, I enjoy the longer ones on him I think!!

    And wowza Chuckles is looking amazing!!!

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    1. thanks!! and i think if any horse can pull off the "longer" look, charlie's got the face for it. i'm not sure it's totally right with this particular bridle (esp with the fit of the noseband and flash) but we'll tinker and toy with it!

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  16. Love that coat. I've contemplated a more aggressive colored coat but haven't made the plunge. And the browband is on point.

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    1. ha "aggressive" is the right word for the color! tho i'm hoping that put on top of Charlie's bay coat it will read more "complementary" vs ..... really popping haha. we'll see i guess!

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  17. Love the browband, and love the berry color on him! It looks great on bays. Not sold on the length tho lol! But I do have a question: what bridle is he wearing? I love it! (And I hope it comes in brown LOL)(I am Mandy btw and just haven't started my blog yet so that's why I'm on here as unknown)

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    1. thanks for commenting Mandy - and it looks like your profile is actually already connecting. exciting about starting a blog too!

      the bridle is actually a PS of Sweden bridle, and they have a fairly wide variety of styles (from $$ to $$$$) in both brown and black. this one pictured above is actually one of their more conservative styles, and i bought it used. there may be others used around too - and there's actually a company that started selling knock-offs tho i haven't seen a single one of those knock offs that looks anything other than.... reeeeeally odd on the horse haha, so i would maybe stay away.

      and in the interest of full disclosure - the browband pictured above is not from PS of Sweden, tho they also sell beaded browbands. this particular one is from Dark Jewel Designs (link to the etsy shop is in the post).

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    2. Thanks so much! I thought it was a PS of Sweden - especially since it didn't have a throatlatch. I like that noseband style a little better than the flying change which I'm thinking of getting, so that's why I was asking. And I think I know what company you're talking about lol. And no worries! You were actually how I found out about Dark Jewel Designs and I'm totally grabbing myself one (you know, after all the OTHER stuff that's on my list lol). Do you know what style/name of the bridle is by any chance?

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    3. oh excellent! honestly i don't know exactly what this bridle was called - i bought it off aimee the sprinkler bandit and she can't remember any specific name for it, but referred to it as the "PS of Sweden Dressage Bridle" in that post. i don't think they sell the exact same thing any more but again, the used market might be your friend.

      honestly i really like the flying change bridles too, it's just hard to commit the money to a statement bridle like that without being sure it'll be a "fit". good luck with your searches - and good luck with all the other fun stuff on your list too - you're definitely gonna have to start blogging to show off all the pictures of your stuff haha

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  18. That browband tho! <3 Going on the bit correctly has confounded me and my herd members for a long time - go you and Charlie :)

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  19. I love the browband so much. And, I love the bridle. And I was thinking that the longer bonnet may start a new trend. So.. I say go for it!

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  20. I love the color on him! If you decide you don't want to go with the bonnet length you can always do a DIY upcycle post! You are good at those. Love living vicariously through you while I am horseless!

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  21. Your plans sound great! Good luck tomorrow! I'm not sure i'm going to make it... So much to do (between what I want to get done and what I need to get done...) and so little time. We'll see... Life is kind of getting in my way these days. And unexpectedly needing to install electric due to a certain miniature horse isn't helping either...

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  22. He looks SOOOO shiny! Also love the colour of the bonnet and the browband, but don't like the long style of the bonnet, I think a shorter one would suit him more.

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  23. When I look at those pics, all I see is the long bonnet instead of Charlie's adorable face. The dress is wearing him, so to speak. Love the color and the gorgeous browband.

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  24. I just bought a wine colored saddle pad for V because I really want to do a dark berry color for my future dressage shows but I don't know if it will raise eyebrows in the ring lol at least I can use it for schooling.
    I like that really long bonnet on Charlie.

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